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Debunking the Myths of Mental Illness

Prior to becoming a creative business owner I was a social worker for adults in the SPMI (severely, persistently, mentally ill) population. So before my life was all pretty weddings and creative retreats, my days were spent filling out case notes and assessing the safety of clients. As you might have guessed, it was a bit of a different world! When you work in any aspect of the mental health field, there are things that become the “norm” for you based on the clients and the system you are working with. When you emerge from that field, it’s hard to remember that those things aren’t the “norm” for others, in fact they can be quite shocking to some.  You can quickly see the stigma that gets associated with anything relating to one’s mental health.

This is why I am so excited that organizations like RTS exist and that they are focusing on opening up the conversation regarding mental health. Taking care of your mental health is vital to anyone, but as a creative entrepreneur the importance is even greater. As creatives, we tend to be deep thinkers and big feelers. As business owners, we tend to spend a lot of time in solitude. As jugglers of both part-time and full-time businesses, we tend to be overworked and overtired. With conditions such as these it is crucial that we take care of ourselves not just physically, but mentally too. It’s imperative that we break the silence on mental health issues and see that mental illness is common and it is okay to discuss openly. With that open discussion in mind, I want to debunk 3 major mental health myths for you today.

Myth: Mental illness is rare.

A huge misconception about mental illness is that it rarely happens in the world around us and therefore, it is taboo. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults in the US (roughly 18% of the population) and depression reportedly affects 1 in 10 Americans. Just to give you a comparison, it’s reported that 11.5% of American adults are affected by heart disease. Now let me ask you, how many walks did you see or participate in for heart disease this year? How many awareness campaigns like the Red Dress Collection caught your eye? How many of you would feel uncomfortable hearing about someone changing habits for the better when they have heart disease, like eating right or exercising? Please know that I am knocking any of these wonderful Heart Disease initiatives. I just want to paint the picture of how we as a society will embrace one disease and shame another.

With anxiety and depression numbers climbing higher and higher each year, why in the world are we letting mental illness be taboo? Why do we shame people who seek help, attempt to improve lifestyles, or share about this condition? Why are we so reluctant to raise awareness and open the dialogue for something that is affecting so many of us on some level? Mental illness is more common than you think my friend. If you are reading this and thinking you are alone, please know that you aren’t. And if you are reading this thinking that you couldn’t possibly know someone affected by mental illness, I hope this opens your eyes to the reality that someone you know might be suffering in silence.

Photo by Krista A. Jones
Photo by Krista A. Jones

Myth: Counseling isn’t for me.

Many people have the incorrect belief that counseling isn’t “for them”. People think that in order to seek out counseling you need to be “sick”, aka have a chronic issue or some official DSM diagnosis. Others think that by seeking out counseling it makes them “weak” or it’s admitting defeat. Both of these notions are highly untrue. Counseling is actually a means of preventative care, just like getting a teeth cleaning or a physical check up. You would never think someone who routinely goes to the dentist is “weak” for wanting to prevent cavities, would you? Of course not! The same can be said of counseling. Having the listening ear of a non-biased, professional can be one of the best things for your well-being. Counseling is a time to seek support, gain or hone skills in areas where you are lacking, learn to see things differently, etc. I can personally tell you that counseling is by far one of the most beneficial things that I have ever done for myself. I highly recommend that you try it even if you don’t feel like your life is in “crisis”. There should never be shame in taking preventative care of your overall well-being friends!

Myth: I must be crazy.

This is one of the most heartbreaking sentences to hear someone utter and I blame society and all of it’s ignorance regarding mental illness and mental health. People are led to believe that there are “normal” people in this world. We see things on social media and think everyone else has it together, everyone else is doing it this way, everyone else is fill in the blank…and I am not, so there must be something wrong with me. Our spouses can pressure us, our clients can pressure us, our responsibilities can pressure us and we are left feeling less. We are left feeling lacking. We are left thinking no one else feels this way, so I must be the crazy one.

Friend, please hear me today when I say – that is not true. There is no “normal”. No one has it all together. Everyone is a little bit broken. And seeking out a better way to take care of yourself doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you smart. It makes you a better version of yourself. It makes you strong. Regardless if you are seeking out a better overall well-being or if you think something might be seriously wrong, please know that YOU can make steps to improve your mental health. Don’t buy into the stigma, take the initial steps whether that simply means learning your triggers and putting in better self care measures, or that means talking to your doctor about medication. Regardless, you are your best advocate for your mental health. You can break the barriers around this topic and take steps to care for yourself better.

Let’s be a part of the discussion RTS. Let’s be leaders and advocators and listeners and in this together. Let’s recognize that we all can benefit from removing the shame and stigma that is associated with mental illness. Let’s celebrate counseling sessions and setting boundaries and taking mental health days. Let’s respect other’s triggers and know that one person’s threshold is not the same as another’s. Let’s lean in when someone isn’t doing okay and be an advocate rather than shying away from them. Let’s be a community that is a safe place to share about the non-pretty parts of small business ownership like anxiety and depression. Together we can debunk myths and make waves!

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